Blockchain: a new weapon in the fight against fakes

October 30, 2018, By

Following from our recent article on the implications of blockchain for royalty management and distribution in the media industry, further practical applications are being offered by several pundits. In this article, we consider the impact for anti-counterfeiting in particular.

From paintings to fashion pieces and luxury goods, being able to prove the authenticity of a particular piece is the first step in being able to exploit it for commercial use: few people are going to want to pay money for a knock off.

Both sets of goods require proof in the “chain of ownership” before their real worth can be verified and the prevalence of counterfeits in the economy ultimately hurts both consumers and creators. The European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has recently run a competition for blockchain coders to find innovative solutions focused on developing the next wave of technology in the fight against counterfeits, specifically focusing on the applications of blockchain for this purpose.

Some of the innovative solutions proposed involve a virtual “twin” for a particular product or shipment. This twin is formed by a virtual serial number or piece of code which then is attached to the product in question throughout the lifecycle of the delivery process via blockchain. As discussed in our previous article, blockchain works via a “public ledger”, much like a public spreadsheet duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. As each of these is continually updated in a self-sustaining system, the spreadsheet is current and accurate for all users in real-time.

Therefore, unlike the physical goods themselves, the piece of code or serial number that serves as its twin is incorruptible. The end customer would not accept delivery of the physical item without its virtual counterpart – information that counterfeiters would not have access to or be able to replicate. This use could equally be applied to customs and enforcement officers whilst the goods are in transit; any change in custody of the goods during the supply chain could equally be recorded, thus making it much easier to identify at what stage a potential problem occurred.

Each of these developments represent exciting changes in the fight against counterfeits and both fashion brands and retailers will be watching them closely. Stay tuned for further updates from Briffa!

Written by Tom Synott